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Montreal ‘Santa to a Senior’ initiative exploding in popularity

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Santa to a senior – Nov 14, 2021

A West Island initiative that brings Christmas gifts to isolated seniors is experiencing exponential growth as it enters its third year.

What began with one Kirkland mom bringing holiday cheer to hundreds has become a force of nature bringing joy to thousands.

“Honestly, this year, it’s exploded,” said Alana Edwards, founder of Santa to a Senior MTL.

It’s the mother of three’s third year going far out of her way to bring cheer to West Island seniors during the holiday season.

Edwards has set up Christmas trees at about 10 different West Island locations. Each one is covered in tags with gift requests from local seniors living in residences.

READ MORE: West Islanders need your help to give Christmas gifts to seniors in need

People come by, grab a tag, buy a modest gift for an isolated senior who may not have even received any, bring it to one of multiple drop-off points, and Edwards takes care of the rest.

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Café Coco and Bean in Beaconsfield has just become the latest location to welcome one of the trees.

“The initiative that she took is fabulous, … especially coming out of the pandemic, or still in the pandemic, knowing that there are residents alone and who don’t get to celebrate Christmas or holidays with their families,” said Candice Najum, the café’s co-owner.

Najum said she and her family grabbed tags and will be buying a warm blanket, a scarf and gourmet cookies for local seniors. Other locations include the Provigo in Kirkland, Calzones on Saint Charles, and Lubrification DDO on St. Jean.

READ MORE: Montreal ‘Santa to a Senior’ initiative returns to West Island for second year

While Edwards’ giving spirit hasn’t changed, the scope of the operation certainly has.

“I’m really depending on the community this year to not let any of these seniors down,” she told Global News.

An empty storefront donated by Broccolini has become Edwards’ new wrapping headquarters.

“It’s better than my living room,” she said, recounting how sections of her own home had been overrun with gifts for the past two years.

She’ll need the extra space.

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The first year, she gathered gifts for about 500 seniors at five different homes. Last year it was 1,000 seniors at 13 homes. This year, 2,100 seniors will get gifts at 26 different residences.

“It’s insane,” she said. “There’s not even a word that I can use to describe the feeling anymore because it’s just it’s overwhelming, but it’s a positive overwhelming.”

Before long, dozens of tables at her wrapping station will all be covered in gifts. Thankfully she has a group of volunteers that who help her wrap them.

Still, it’s a lot of work for a mom of three — including a newborn. To Edwards, it’s all worth it.

She specifically remembers giving a gift to an isolated senior that first year.

“She looked at me, and she says, ‘This is the first gift I’ve gotten in years.’ She just broke down in tears and then I broke down in tears,” Edwards recounted.

She says those moments are the reason she continues to expand the initiative. In the coming years, she’s hoping to give seniors gifts for other occasions like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Visit the Santa to a Senior MTL Facebook page to find out how you can help her bring that joy to someone this year.

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